Hall call caps it for Charron

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

For Al Charron, his induction last night into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame was as much an honour for rugby as it was for him.

The sport labours on the fringes of the Canadian sports consciousness except when the Canadian side does something special on the world stage.

When that's happened, Charron, who earned 76 caps and captained the Canucks 22 times, usually had the fingerprints of his monstrous mitts all over it.

"I'm definitely thrilled about it," he said of last night's induction at Scotiabank Place. "People have been asking me about being in the Hall of Fame and it's certainly nice, especially because rugby doesn't get a lot of recognition. It's a better known outside the country.

"This is a thrill for me being an Ottawa boy and growing up here, Ottawa is special to me. The honour is cool for me, my family and friends."

Charron was inducted last night in the athletes category with track and field Olympian Joan Hendry and hockey's Howard "Rip" Riopelle and, in the builders category, administrator and coach Pat Reid and sportswriter Bob Ferguson.

Charron, now 42 and retired since participating in his fourth World Cup in 2003, fell in love with rugby as a student at Hillcrest High School. He had played some pickup football and always liked the contact. He played for the Ottawa Irish Rugby Club, crediting Stu Robinson and Dan Demerah for cultivating his passion for the game.

"They took me under their wing. People only get better playing for the Irish. I had a passion for the sport and I was hungry to learn. I was not the smartest rugby player. I didn't know they laws of the game. I was told to go where the ball was and I had no problem with that. I enjoyed the tackling," said, Charron, who stands almost 6-foot-4 and weighed more than 255 lbs.

'PRETTY BIG HEART'

Charron played with a desire that was almost as big as he was.

"I never took any time off in a game. I prided myself on that," he said. "I don't think I had that much talent, but I had a pretty big heart. I would do whatever it took for the team to win."

He helped rugby hit the headlines, scoring a legendary game-tying try in an upset of Wales at Cardiff's Ames Park in 1993.

In 1991, the Canadian side had a Cinderella run at the World Cup, defeating Fiji and Romania and giving France and powerhouse New Zealand all they could handle.

"That was a lot more satisfying because a lot of people said we had no hope," said Charron. "Getting to the quarter-finals was an eye-opener and was satisfying for rugby fans the world over. New Zealand is the Montreal Canadiens of the sport. To go up against them and play well...scoring a try against them is like scoring a goal against Ken Dryden."

He played professionally in the United Kingdom and France, earning the adoration of fans, but the professional experience left a bad taste in his mouth. The first two clubs he joined ended up filing for bankruptcy and a team in France failed to honour the last couple months of his contract after he decided not play out an option.

"That left a bad taste in my mouth, but everything in the end was way more positive than negative," he said.

- A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Hendry, 53, graduated from the University of Ottawa and competed in the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics. She held two Canadian track records, the 100 metres (11.4 seconds) and was co-holder of the women's 50 metres indoor record (6.2 s). From 1967-71, she owned the long jump record, the first woman to break the 20-foot mark.

- Riopelle, 87, was a star athlete at St. Patrick's High School and headed off to fight in World War II upon graduation. After the war he joined the Montreal Canadiens organization, winning the Allen Cup with the Royals in 1947. He played 169 games with the Habs from 1947-50, scoring 27 goals and adding 16 assists.

- Reid, 60, has been involved on the national sports scene as an administrator and coach. He was the national high jump coach from 1969-79, coaching in Olympic, Pan-Am and Commonwealth games. He organized the first women's world hockey championship here in Ottawa in 1990.

- Ferguson, 77, wrote for the Ottawa Citizen for 30 years and compiled four editions of Who's Who in Canadian Sports. He was involved as an amateur baseball organizer and wrote for a numerous publications. He is the first recipient of the Ottawa Ernie Calcutt-Eddie McCabe-Brian Smith Memorial Media Life Time Achievement Award.


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